Joseph Davis Joseph Davis
Director, Communications
Sydney Lewis Sydney Lewis
Associate Manager, Communications


March 20, 2024


What happens when we assume we know something to be true? Do we seek to verify that ‘truth’ or hold firm on faulty information? Admittedly, it’s hard finding out you’re wrong about something, anything. It’s just easier to operate in an idyllic cocoon of rightness because confirming your assumptions is ... just too much work. So, we’re here to help. If even in a small, fundamental way. Childcare — boy, do we think we know a lot about it when in fact, we do not. But that’s okay, we too were surprised by how much more we needed to learn about the many facets of childcare. There are a multitude of things we could highlight that many of us lack an understanding of, but we’ll focus on a few that routinely make an appearance. We want to make you a tiny bit smarter, prevent you from reciting that thing to your co-worker again — that was totally wrong, and most of all, we want to separate some myths from the reality of childcare in America.


MYTH: Childcare providers must make a lot of money because the cost of childcare is so high.

Reality: Despite the high fees associated with childcare, many providers operate on narrow margins. The significant expenses involved in delivering quality care, such as staff salaries, facility maintenance, and educational resources, often mean that providers – especially “mom and pop” providers - earn modest incomes. Furthermore, childcare workers are among the lowest-paid professionals, despite the critical nature of their work. The cost of childcare sits annually at about $11,000, however, the median pay for childcare workers in 2022, according to Labor Department data, is less than $14/hour or less than $30,000 annually.

As aforementioned, providers face a spate of unique operational costs that suck up revenue to provide workers with fair wages. These costs include adherence to stringent regulations and licensing requirements, which are vital for establishing credibility, as well as liability insurance. It also includes costs for resources and supplies, revenue limits due to staffing or space capacity, compounded by the challenges of high demand, long hours, and the emotional labor involved in childcare.

Most importantly to the futures and education of the next generation, providers are tasked as employers with keeping qualified staff and trained professionals, offering the best education experience for children, and supplying workers with upskilling and professional development opportunities.


MYTH: Childcare is always affordable with proper budgeting and preparation, regardless of location.   

Reality: The notion that childcare is universally affordable with careful budgeting overlooks the diverse and complex realities of families. In many cases, childcare costs are exorbitant, surpassing major living expenses and even college tuition, making it unattainable for numerous households despite diligent financial planning. A new study from found that more than a third of parents who pay for childcare are regularly drawing from their savings, further, nearly 70% of parents say their savings will be depleted in six months or less.

When determining their path on the childcare journey, parents have to consider a myriad of decisions, directions, and investments including private or center-based childcare, home-based daycare options, the proximity of the childcare to home or work, the qualifications and experience of caregivers, the child-to-caregiver ratio, the educational philosophy and curriculum offered, and the flexibility of the care schedule to accommodate their work and family commitments.

The impact of childcare costs varies significantly based on factors like family size, income levels, and the availability of childcare services, which is especially scarce in “childcare deserts” often found in rural areas. The closing of a single childcare facility in a moderately sized town can have a profound effect on the community, directly impacting the work-life balance, economic output, and career choices of parents.

The bottom line is there is no one-size-fits-all approach to childcare.


MYTH: Childcare access is readily, and equally available in communities across the country.

Reality: The belief that every family that requires childcare can take advantage of it is separated from reality. In fact, several factors contribute to the gap in care that many families are subject to greatly impact access — and many face a combination of those factors. The struggle for access to childcare for many working families is not a recent challenge, and as we now know, cost is at the top of the list for most — no matter where you reside.

For far too many families, the financial burden for childcare is high, often pricing out those with low incomes. What’s more, quality care is directly associated with cost, making it prohibitive for numerous households. The challenges don’t stop there. Availability of care can be scarce in some parts of the country, especially in urban and rural areas, forcing families to make tough choices when it comes to quality and their own workforce options. This scarcity is otherwise known as childcare deserts.

Another obstacle is the limited accessibility of care for working parents with non-traditional work hours. An estimated 43% of children in the U.S. have at least one parent with a non-standard work schedule, which often include irregular shifts.

Many providers operate on 9–5 schedules, limiting their options and the ability to provide care for their kids while they work. A significant number of parents and guardians contend with transportation challenges, whether it’s limited options or extended commutes — occurring most often in rural and underserved areas. 

Solutions + Looking Forward

Navigating the complexities of childcare requires collective effort and innovation from every corner of our society, including employers, parents, providers, and communities.

Imagine the state of childcare in a world where: 

  • Employers are pivotal allies and unexpected heroes, harboring the potential to drive forward-thinking initiatives and support systems that significantly lighten the load for working families, especially in rural communities.
  • Through community-driven solutions, public-private partnerships,and robust collaborations, we can forge a childcare infrastructure that is more accessible, flexible, and responsive to the needs of diverse families.
  • We reimagine the balance between work and family life, recognizing the indispensable role of childcare in fostering healthy, vibrant communities.

The critical workforce-childcare connection underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of childcare access and affordability across different geographic and socio-economic landscapes. Childcare needs should be addressed based on the unique needs of communities, parents, and children.

As we look ahead, it is crucial that we tailor our strategies to the unique circumstances of each family, ensuring that every child and parent has access to the quality care and support they need. By uniting our efforts and resources, we can create a foundation for all families to thrive, marking a significant stride toward a more inclusive and supportive future.

About the authors

Joseph Davis

Joseph Davis

Joseph Davis is communications director at the U.S. Chamber Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis is associate communications manager for education, workforce, resilience, and thought leadership at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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